What can we do about the rising suicide rates?

By Sarah Saffold, MSW, LMSW

Suicide has become a major health concern over the years and is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. As September is national suicide prevention month, let’s take a look at what has been causing the rise in suicide and what we can do about it.

Current Statistics

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports, in 2019:

  1. Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the US
  2. It is the second leading cause of death among individuals ages 10- 24 years of  age and the 4th leading cause of death among ages 35-44 years of age
  3. Suicide rates increased 35.2% over the past 10 years
  4. Suicide rates for males are 3.7 times higher than females
  5. Suicidal thoughts are the highest among young adults 18 – 25 years of age
  6. The rate of suicide attempts is the highest among those 18- 25 years of age

Why are we seeing the rates climb?

There are many factors that contribute to this, however the changes over the years in access to health care, jobs, social justice, education all play a part.

  1. Opioid epidemic
  2. Millenials who were recovering from the 2008 recession and should be at the peak of their career were faced with shutdown from the pandemic – leading to financial and general stress – slower economic growth than many generations before
  3. Young people with less education are more financially strapped than those from previous generations – if you don’t have a job you’re happy with, you feel less satisfaction in life
  4. Currently young people are getting married later than in prior generations due to not feeling “adult” or “stable enough”  – this can lead to shame and that feeilng is a huge predictor of suicide
  5. Seeing what everyone else’s perceived lives are like constantly on social media is something older generations did not have to deal with
  6. Lacking the money needed for a livable life- millennials are experiencing high levels of anxiety and perfectionism- double the rates of anxiety of baby boomers
  7. All of these factors lead to defeat, humiliation, hopelessness, feeling stuck, feeling dread with each day and isolated
  8. It would be remiss to not mention how much COVID caused intense social isolation, which also leads to depression, low mood, anxiety

Anxiety, depression, substance use, and  perfectionism all increase the risk for suicide

What can we do to decrease suicidal ideation or attempts?

  1. Allow for destigmatizing mental health. Make safe spaces to hold people’s stories and pain and share your own. We can normalize the thoughts, many people have them at one time or another. Talking about suicide does not cause suicidal ideation or attempts to increase
  2. Ask about reasons for living if someone is having suicidal thoughts and ask them to delay the concept of suicide
  3. Come up with a safety plan until an appointment can be set with a therapist or professional. Be sure they have the resources needed: National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), the Crisis Text Line, 741741, and 911. If an attempt is imminent, a call to these numbers is necessary 
  4. Limit access to lethal means such as medication, guns, etc
  5. Involve others in treatment- contact family, doctors, school – become a community around the person
  6. Discuss alternatives for pain relief: exercise, social activity, mastery/pleasure list to cross off activities each day to feel productive, discussing gratitude, helping others, finding simple joys, practicing mindfulness, screen breaks from social media

We all live with pain in our lives and being able to normalize can help those who suffer to not feel as isolated, shamed and alone.

now offering video therapy sessions

It's more important than ever to take care of your mental health, so all of our therapists are doing Telehealth and many have immediate openings for new clients.